Knives & Maintenance

What you need to know about kitchen knives

You need to know why you need a kitchen knife first before buying one. This is especially true if you work in a specific professional kitchen. I worked fulltime in an Asian fusion kitchen which serves Chinese and Japanese dishes. If you are a home cook then you are good with just a paring knife and a chefs knife. But like any other hobby cooks, we like to expand our collection. So let’s dig deeper into the world of kitchen knives.

Buying a kitchen knife for the first time

Before you buy a kitchen knife you need to know what you are going to use it for. Some knives are only for meat and others only for vegetables and some are for chopping bones etc. If this is your first time buying a kitchen knife then I recommend a cheap 18 to 20cm (7 to 8icnh) chef’s knife for a maximum at 18 euro (approx. 20 dollars). A chef’s knife is good for vegetables and boneless meat. The reason for a cheap first knife is to gain experience dull it and hone and sharpen it. You will learn how to sharpen and how to hone the knife by doing it over and over again until you are ready for a more expensive pair.

Don’t buy a tv-chef kitchen knife!

What you absolutely need to avoid is buying the tv celebrity-branded knives that they sell in the supermarket or at a cheap home cooking store. You can buy a tv celebrity knife but I recommend buying them at a minimum 60% discount and not at the full price. If you see it at a 75%+ discount then that will definitely be my buy recommendation. All the tv celebrity chefs use cheap stainless steel. Which is good for home cooks and beginners but they sell them at a premium just to put their logo or name on them. A tv celebrity stainless steel chefs knife of 18-20cm (7 to 8 inch) should not be more than 18 euro (approx. 20 dollars) max. Or you must really love the tv chef and pay 40 or 50 euro for his knife.

Steel-types of kitchen knives

We can talk a lot about the types of steel but what you want to know is what Rockwell Hardness your knives are (HRC). The higher the HRC the harder the steel.

  • 52-54 HRC: Cheap chefs knives, mostly very cheap 8 euro (10 dollars) made in China. Needs to be honed every time we are done with a task. If used in a professional kitchen.
  • 54-56 HRC: Better than cheap knives. Mostly for home cooks and not for the professional kitchen. Most cheap Chinese bone cleavers use this kind of hardness. Needs to honed a few times a day if used in a professional kitchen.
  • 56-58 HRC: Easy to sharpen and used in a professional kitchen. Most german knives or better quality Chinese vegetable/bone cleavers use this kind of hardness.
  • 58-60 HRC: Better quality kitchen knives like Japanese knife global. They stay longer sharp but are harder to sharpen.
  • 60-62 HRC: The knives remain sharp for a long time but has more risk of becoming brittle. Harder to sharpen and quality depends on the production. Mostly used in Japanese knives.
  • 63-66 HRC: Needs cleaning after each use and more prone to chipping and becoming brittle.

Of course, these are just guidelines. The manufacturer and where the knives are made has a huge role in the quality.

VG10 Chinese Knives?

The Japanese VG10 steel has a hardness of 60 to 61 HRC if it is made in Japan. But if China imports the Japanese VG10 steel and makes it in their own country then the hardness can shift to 58 – 62 HRC. So it depends highly on the manufacturer. Japanese chef knives cost around 180 euro while the Japanese VG10 imported steel Chefs Knives are around 90 euro so 50% cheaper. China also had their own kind of VG10 steel which they call 10Cr15C and sometimes 10Cr15CoMoV. You can compare that with VG10 Japanese steel the hardness here also depends on the manufacturer and the method they use. The HRC is around 58 and 62 but for us, it is not possible to measure, so we have to count on their words. 10Cr15C or 10Cr15CoMoV cost around 45 euro so that is 75% cheaper than the Japanese VG10 knives made in Japan.

If you want to know what knife you should buy you can read the following article ”Choosing your knife”.

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